Friday, August 10, 2007
Relative difficulty: Challenging
Normally love Karen M. Tracey puzzles, but I'm finding this one particularly hard to love. I got brutalized, primarily by a couple of long foreign/insane names I just did not know. There was a boatload of obscurity in this puzzle, with few patches feeling smooth, and almost none of it feeling very fun. Also some iffy cluing. OK, first the good stuff:
27A: Fictional salesman of '80s ads (Joe Isuzu) - thank god for this gimme, or I don't know how I would have gotten off the metaphorical ground
20D: Mideastern news source (Al Jazeera) - the "J" in JOE ISUZU made this one easy, and it's a very sparkly answer. The "Z" helped me get ZIEGFELD ... sadly, it could not help me come up with ZIEGFELD's first name (more on that later)
52D: Cyborg's beginning? (robo-) is very clever, especially considering it's in near-symmetrical relationship to 13D: Science fiction author Greg (Egan) (I wanted BEAR here)
24D: Sex therapist's suggestion (Viagra) - like VIAGRA in the grid, but not sure about the clue. Is a "sex therapist" different from a doctor? Wouldn't a doctor be way, Way more likely to "suggest" this? In fact, wouldn't [Wife's suggestion] be way more realistic?
54A: Resident of Chinese highlands (giant panda) - by the time I got here, I was so beleaguered by obscure answers (see below) that I was looking for something Way more difficult than this ended up being.
16A: Gain or loss (yardage) and 59A: Relief pitcher Armando (Benitez) were two sports-related answers that helped me a lot. Also nice to have the oddly easy EVEL (53D: First name in motorcycling) in the puzzle.
19A: Where the African Union is headquartered (Addis Ababa) goes beautifully with 11D: Sportswear company whose logo is three parallel stripes (Adidas) - just as JOE ISUZU goes great with TRUST ME (17A: Line from a scam artist) and the [Jambalaya] clues complement each other as well (32D: OLIO, 58A: GRAB BAG).
4D: Best Supporting Actress of 1997 (Basinger) - I had BASI- and still couldn't get this for a while, which is very embarrassing, because I LOVE, and own, "L.A. Confidential."
1A: Whole _____ (shebang) - this gave me fits, but when I got it, I liked it
57D: Cousin of TV (Itt) - had ITT before I ever saw the clue and wondered what the hell it could be - turns out, it's a pop culture reference I actually understood
46A: Firm wheel: Abbr. (pres.) - ugh. I mean, I see it, but ugh. "Wheel?" This is just intentionally shifty without being particularly clever (tho' the fact that I wanted EDAM is funny enough that I don't hate this clue as much as it warrants)
10D: Univ. class (Jrs.) - to be fair, I never actually saw this clue, but still, it's no good. Mushy misdirection. :(
21A: Headache intensifiers (dins) - this is extrapolating too much. Odors and bright lights are far, far more likely to intensify my headaches than DINS.
Guessing and / or Crashing...
36A: Biographical subject of the Best Picture of 1936 (Florenz Ziegfeld)
file under "Guessing" AND "Crashing." ZIEGELD was easy, but the first name remained elusive til the end. FLORENCE? FLORANN? FLO FLO FLO COME ON! I had errors spiking off this answer, most notably 34D: Co-star of Broadway's "Fanny" (Ezio Pinza) - WTF!? Look, Olde Tyme Entertainmente is not my cup of tea, and two such clues, long clues, intersecting at a "Z," with totally exotic names ... that's just not fair. To me. Total wipe-out. Sadly, I let the madness spread to other answers that I really should have nailed, namely 26D: Smart (dressy), where I had BRASSY (!?) and 25A: Dept. store stock (gds.) where apparently I had GBS, which is nothing I recognize.
50D: Virtual meeting of a sort (e-date) - apparently you can just put an "E" in front of anything now and it's a justifiable word. Yuck.
52A: 1988 chart-topping country album ("Reba") - actually not that hard, but I certainly didn't know it; inferred it.
51D: Patrick with a Tony (Magee) - whatever. No idea, and didn't help that it intersected with yet another (what is that, half a dozen now) prehistoric pop culture answer, 62A: McDonald's mascot before Ronald (Speedee).
44A: He beat Botvinnik in 1960 (Tal) - no part of this makes sense to me. I had HAL, because I confused Deep Blue with the computer from "2001: A Space Odyssey." Nevermind that I thought Deep Blue's name was Big Blue (the name for IBM). And nevermind that this gave me H-STRAP (44D: Pump alternative) when I had the correct T-STRAP just a couple days ago.
33D: Monkshood (wolfsbane) - just ... insanity. I managed to piece it together, but ugh.
38D: Like many a road map (foldable) - I had FOLDED UP, which ... well, you can imagine.
29D: _____ Corporation (jewelry retail giant) (Zale) - would have had a Lot of trouble were it not for the "Z" from JOE ISUZU. Wanted DEBEERS before I saw that I was dealing with just four letters.
Lastly, GREBE (7D: Relative of a loon) is just a stupid word - really, that bird should be embarrassed - and I don't think I knew that a group of NOMADS (6D: See 2-Down) is called a HORDE (2D: Group of 6-Down). Also forgot that Henry VIII had six wives. I somehow thought eight, and so had OCHO and even HUIT before I ever had SEIS (14D: Number of wives of Enrique VIII).
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld